Remembering 9/11: Portland FBI Special Agent Brendan

On the 20th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, Portland FBI Special Agent Brendan describes how he responded to events. "All I knew is I wanted to be down there and try to help."

Video Transcript

Hello, my name is Brendan, and I am a special agent with the FBI.

I was supposed to be at my office by 8 o’clock, give or take. You come out of Grand Central, and you are immediately looking downtown, or at least I was on that particular day. I remember seeing a plume of smoke down covering downtown which was about 40-50 blocks away from where Grand Central was located. There were reports that a plane had flown into one of the towers.

My mother or father calls me at the office and asks me to go check on my sister who had just transferred to NYU, and I went to her apartment, checked on her.

I stayed with her for about 15 minutes to half an hour, at which point I just got up and said I had to go. I don’t know what drove me. Prior to joining the FBI I had no desire to be in law enforcement. There was not an inkling in me that wanted to be a cop, that wanted to be an investigator, that wanted to be in the intelligence field. In that one moment right there when I told my sister I was leaving, I think that all changed because for whatever reason, something came over me, and I headed downtown.

I didn’t know what I was going to do. All I knew is I wanted to be down there and try to help, however that looked. I got to within, I don’t know, 10 blocks of what ended up being Ground Zero, and the second building collapsed.

So I ended up being one of those people running away covered in all sorts of debris, and I started just walking toward midtown at that point. My cell phone didn’t work at that point, and so I just walked back to Grand Central Station.

I remember taking that train, and it being silent until we crossed over the Connecticut/New York border at which point cell phone service was really restored, and everyone’s phones started going off.

I remember distinctly getting about 20 voice mails, five of which were from my mother going from “Hey, Brendan I know you’re ok” to, essentially, hysterically crying once she had found out that I had gone downtown to do something.

I was also eulogized by my friends who didn’t know what job I had taken in New York. A lot of them thought I was possibly in one of the towers.

I remember eventually walking back downtown, days later, and just looking through all the missing people flyers. And, I also remember picking up the newspaper every morning, and getting very emotional about all of the biographies of the people that were lost… or couldn’t be found… believed to be missing at that time.

People think, “Oh, it’s two buildings falling, it’s 2,500 lives that were lost.” When you personalize it, and when you realize how lives are changed… and I’m not just speaking “us” as U.S. citizens, but individual lives, individual families… it, it really can become overwhelming. And I think that definitely helped me want to do more and try to do more.

I think that it was at that point that I realized that my life was on a different path. Fast forward about eight, nine years later, I found myself working on Wall Street. I had gotten my MBA from Boston University, and I still had that passion of trying to join an intelligence branch, specifically the FBI… and I’ve been an agent for the last 10 years, so 9/11 put me on my path completely.

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